IOWA CITY — When Tracy Lacina learned of her former client Lois Bird’s passing and the hospice home she helped get off the ground, she knew she had to do something.
The licensed aesthetician and owner of Coralville’s Skin Deep Salon and Spa decided to become a caregiver at the Bird House Hospice Home of Johnson County, 8 Lime Kiln Lane NE in Iowa City. She’s been volunteering there about six hours a week since late 2017, providing skin care services to guests when asked or needed.
Then in August, Lacina began providing free skin care services to Bird House staff, volunteers and family members of guests.
And this June, she was awarded a $20,000 first-place prize in the “Compassionate” category at the Skin Games, an international aestheticians competition. The category, which honors community service, is the only one with a monetary prize, and winners are asked to choose a nonprofit to receive the award money.
Lacina gave her prize to the Bird House, a nonprofit that relies on donations to provide care.
To enter the Skin Games, Lacina wrote an essay, submitted a video and spoke in front of a panel of judges in Las Vegas after advancing in the category.
With over 900 people attending the award ceremony on June 14, she wasn’t sure she had a chance of winning.
“I didn’t want to let the Bird House down,” she said.
It wasn’t until after midnight that Lacina learned she won, a fact that still hasn’t fully sunk in, she said. She immediately called Carol Tippe, home coordinator at the Bird House, who had been waiting to hear news.
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“We had a great sense of confidence in her,” Tippe said. “She is the best of compassion. The (Bird) House already won, even if she didn’t get the money.”
Being a caregiver at the Bird House isn’t about getting paid, Lacina said. A cancer survivor herself, she said her heart lies in helping cancer patients.
Until 2010, she said, oncology skin care and facial methods weren’t taught because of the potential risks of working with cancer patients. She became trained in oncology aesthetics as soon as possible, allowing her to give specific services needed for cancer patients’ skin.
Skin Deep Salon and Spa also provides hair and wig services so it can be a “one stop shop” for cancer patients needing care, Lacina said.
A majority of people undergoing chemotherapy lose their hair, she said — not just on the scalp but over the whole body. Special products and a soft touch help provide safe, effective and easy skin care to these patients, she said.
Many people may think of skin care as a luxury, she said, but a “proactive instead of reactive” approach is needed when it comes to taking care of skin, the largest organ of the body.
“Your skin will start screaming if you don’t listen to it when it whispers,” Lacina said.
The Bird House has five rooms for guests and at least two caregivers on the clock at any given hour. Tippe said the hospice center offers guests a peaceful, dignified place to spend the end of their lives in rooms that don’t look or feel like a hospital.
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There wasn’t a hospice home in Johnson County at all before the Bird House opened in 2016, she said. The center a member of the Omega Home Network, which means it’s an independent nonprofit created by and for the community and run by volunteers. The Bird House is the only Omega Home in Iowa and one of the 29 in the United States, Tippe said.
Over the past three years, Tippe said 162 guests have come through the Bird House’s doors. Most guests, ranging from ages 20 to 100, spend about 20 days at the home receiving care. However, Tippe said some guests stay for as short as an hour and as long as over 200 days, depending on their needs and wishes.
By Lacina offering free services to anyone at the Bird House, Tippe said, people who otherwise may not have sought skin care services are able to be taken care of in a relaxing setting.
“It’s a gift to have her share her skin care experience,” she said.
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